In the event that property becomes flooded by natural causes, equipment failure or human error, the owners and residents are usually eager to return to life as usual as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this cannot be done without some danger, as any wood that has been soaked or submerged is vulnerable to further issues of mold, insects or weakening of the structure.
The water that inundates property during a flooding incident is usually contaminated, and that contamination can remain in any porous surfaces that are affected, requiring a complete replacement. Ready to do it yourself, or get it done by the pros? Here’s a handy checklist for getting the best results safely.
1. Proceed with Caution!
Before entering any affected site:
- Conduct an external inspection, checking specifically for structural and electrical damage that may compromise safety within the structure.
- Check for fire hazards or possible gas leaks.
- Wear appropriate PPE, including safety shoes, rubber gloves and eye protection.
Be watchful for water-borne creatures like fire ants or snakes. If you detect mold, make sure you wear an air filter.
2. Flood Insurance Claims
If you have flood insurance, your insurance adjuster should be your first call. However, you’ll want to get started with the cleanup, salvage and drying efforts right away, not waiting for the adjuster. Take lots of pictures to document damage, inventory and restoration progress. Clear out anything that can mask the damage, but keep any damaged materials to provide proof of loss. Once the adjuster assesses damages to the property, the owner should sign a confirmation of loss statement.
If federal authorities have a formal declaration of disaster, you can apply for assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362).
3. Electrical Systems
It’s vital to ensure that all electric and gas services have been turned off before attempting to enter the property. It may be wise to engage an electrician to check the premises for electrical grounding before proceeding. Standing water can conduct electricity from building sources or fallen power lines.
4. Food and Water Sanitation
Before the public water supply is declared safe to consume, use only bottled or purified water for drinking, cooking, bathing/showering, or washing dishes.
To purify water, first, strain it through a clean cloth or filter; then bring it to a boil for at least a minute. If boiling is not possible, mix about eight drops (1/8 tablespoon) of chlorine bleach into a gallon of clean water, or 16 drops (1/4 tablespoon) per gallon of moderately contaminated water) and let it sit for at least a half-hour. Avoid the use of iodine or purification tablets for this purpose.
Carefully check all food. Anything in undamaged cans or thick, unopened plastic bags can be salvaged, though the exteriors of the containers may have become contaminated. Disinfect them with a sanitizing solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of potable water. Label anything that has lost its identifying markings and include the expiration date.
You’ll need dishes and utensils to prepare and serve your meals. Discard any contaminated wooden items and plastic utensils or containers. Sanitize your metal or ceramic pans, utensils and dishes by thoroughly washing them, then boiling them or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per quart water.
5. Furnishing and Carpets
Move all furniture, bedding and carpeting to a dry place outdoors, where it can be inspected to decide whether to clean or discard each item. If wet, carpet pads should always be replaced, while carpeting and area rugs can go on a case-by-case basis as to their continued usage. Hose off rugs and carpets and sanitize them with a solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water. (Do not use bleach on wool.)
Any upholstered furniture and mattresses that have been contaminated should be discarded. Hose off any solid wood, metal and plastic furniture and dry in the shade.
Even surfaces that look undamaged can develop odor, mold and decay over time. Walls that have been flooded need to be opened to several inches above the waterline. Remove baseboards and discard drywall and any insulation in the wet zone.
Studs and other wall features can be disinfected of mold and fungi with a solution of one cup bleach to one gallon of water. Leave the walls open with fans or dehumidifiers running until thoroughly dry, which might take up to a month.
Replace these materials with something that can withstand future flooding, like rigid foam insulation, removable wainscoting or ceramic tile.
7. Floors & Walls
If your property is left wet for too long, most interiors and their contents are probably ruined. Clear and dry the interiors as soon as possible, and only begin permanent repairs when the building is thoroughly dry, even if it takes a month or two.
Submerged plywood or OSB subfloors that have experienced the floodwaters will need to be removed and discarded. Allow the remaining floor to thoroughly dry and inspect it for warping or mildew before installing new flooring.
Clean and dry as soon as floodwaters recede to keep mold and other damage to a minimum. To prevent swelling and buckling of a wood floor, remove a board every few feet. If the subfloor begins to swell or separate, tile or sheet flooring may need to be removed to let it dry thoroughly. A professional may need to be called for this.
Dry interiors as thoroughly and quickly as possible. If you have power, use the air conditioning or heater, fans, and a dehumidifier or desiccants to speed up the drying process.
Removing furniture and situating it in dry areas outdoors should be the first task. Take items apart (drawers, doors, etc.) to let components dry thoroughly. Discard any upholstery or padding that has gotten wet. Clear off any mud and clean furniture thoroughly with commercial cleaning products. Let it dry thoroughly in the shade before applying any refinishing or sealing products.
9. Preventing Mold and Mildew
It is necessary to use aggressive mold and mildew control following a flood, possibly for a month or more.
When power is restored, use heating, air conditioning, dehumidifiers or fans to dry every bit of the property. Leave doors to closets and cupboards open to help them dry out.
Clean individual items outdoors to prevent spreading more mold spores in your living areas. Let things dry in direct sunlight. Use commercial cleaners or a solution of one cup of rubbing or denatured alcohol to one cup of water. Dry thoroughly after cleaning.
10. Trust the Professionals
It’s clear that the task of water damage mitigation and property restoration following a water intrusion incident is complex, difficult and delicate. Engaging professionals to expedite repairs is always the best idea. Professionals like the Trusted Response Team from Water Resto USA.
Water Resto USA specializes in restoring residential and commercial properties damaged by flooding, fire, smoke and mold, and they’re on-call 24/7/365 anywhere in Miami-Dade, Broward & Palm Beach counties. With a 30-minute response time and a 100% satisfaction guarantee, let the highly-trained professionals from Water Resto USA handle your next water emergency.
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